Greetings! Have you ever wondered if a movie's worth blowing the money on to see at the theater or what to add next to your NetFlix queue? Then you've come to the right place! Enjoy!

"Amanda Knox" Review

As someone who doesn't really follow tabloid hype stories very closely, the name Amanda Knox meant very little. I was vaguely aware that she was an American exchange student who has gone to Italy and then some girl (her housemate) turned up brutally murdered and there were intimations that Knox and her Italian boyfriend had killed her in some weird sex game gone super wrong. It seemed like I was always hearing her name pop up over and over as she was convicted, had that overturned, then reconvicted in absentia, etc.

Hot off the success of their stunning Making A Murderer documentary series, Netflix is clearly hoping for similar cultural buzz for Amanda Knox, a cursory primer of the case which dragged on eight years from the time of the murder to her final exoneration. With interviews with Knox, her lover, the British reporter leading the yellow journalism charge, and the chief investigator from the town's police, it superficially recaps the investigation and trial and subsequent reversals.

The problem Amanda Knox has is that her case was widely disseminated with every tawdry detail and how the police totally screwed the pooch with their investigation, basically convicting two people with tainted evidence. The shock power of Making A Murderer came from the fact that outside of Wisconsin, no one had really heard of this case and with 10 hours to work with, there was tons of video footage of the trials which laid out the case that some serious miscarrying of justice was going on and no one should be feeling good about how those convictions were secured. Amanda Knox is a brief hour-and-a-half with which to address years of events and there's simply not enough there there.

If you know little about Amanda Knox's excruciatingly slow slog through the Italian justice system, then Amanda Knox is a tidy catcher-upper. Otherwise, there's nothing new other than inconsequential interviews with the players.

Score: 6/10. Watch for a primer on the case.

"Mad Tiger" Review

While scrolling through Netflix I was surprised to see there was a documentary about NYC-based cartoon-punk band Peelander-Z called Mad Tiger. I'd been seeing them when they came through town for about 15 years and casually followed their career (i.e. went to shows; never bought records), noting when drummer Peelander Blue (they go by color-coded names and outfits) returned to Peelander Planet and was replaced by Peelander Green, etc.

I've photographed their shows several times - you can see those shots here, here and here - and while they always had a theatrical/audience participation element to the band, over the years they tilted heavily into the show and the music itself became almost an afterthought as almost every song would break down into some sort of bit.

The surprising part of Mad Tiger is that it documents their final tour with Peelander Red as he was exiting the band in 2012. My last set of photos were from that tour and I had no idea Red had left. Other revelations were that the girl (Peelander Pink) who'd been around the latter tours as a keyboardist/hype woman/merch girl was Peelander Yellow's wife; that Red worked as a bartender and was quitting to get married himself and open a bar (which apparently happened without him; it's two businesses later according to Google searches and he's not mentioned in any stories); they imported another bassist from Japan (they're all Japanese ex-pats living in NYC) who lasted one show and drummer Peelander Green decided to quit, too.

All well and good, but the fundamental problem with Mad Tiger is that unless you are familiar with the band and its shtick, there is very little to grasp onto. We never see complete songs - merely impressionistic snippets from shows in an attempt to convey chaotic energy - and the way they dole out revelations about their private lives (the Yellow-Pink marriage is like whispering a state secret) and cover the band stifles any narrative flow.

By the end, you will know a few things about some aging Japanese fellows who had a band that eventually disbanded, though that's misleading as YouTube had videos of them playing in the past month with Pink now on bass (though one has another bassist on stage, too). While I learned some things, I didn't learn much more than trivia and those unfamiliar with the band will be perplexed as to why this movie exists.

Score: 6/10. For Peelander-Z fans only. (Everyone else, 4/10 - skip it)

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